If I told you J.J. Hardy would be your starting SS next year, what would your initial reaction be?
If you are anything like the majority of fantasy owners, I am guessing it would go something like this: “Eh, boorrriiing.” Of course, I have no hard evidence to back this up, but for some reason it seems like if a player is outside the elite, yet consistently puts up pretty good, uninspiring numbers they fall into what I would consider the fantasy “friend zone” (see Michael Cuddyer). He’s solid and he will always be there for you, but you will never look at him like he can be anything more than that. (Even though last year, and some years in the past, he kind of has been.)
Take 2013 for example. When compared to all other short stops Hardy was tops at the position with 25 HR (tied with Troy Tulowitzki) and third with 76 RBI. If those numbers forced a double-take out of you, believe me you are not alone. Granted, he wasn’t nearly as helpful with runs (66) or batting average (.266), but he didn’t hurt you either. Put it all together, and in most fantasy formats he was probably right on that top 10 SS cusp.
The best part of his stat line is that it is totally sustainable and actually quite predictable (another fast way to find the friend zone) when you consider Hardy’s career 162 game pace of 80 R, 23 HR, 76 RBI, and .260 AVG.
Below are his last three years for your comparing pleasure.
Hardy has hit 20+ HR in each of the past three seasons and is a safe bet to do so again in 2014.
At A Glance
- Strengths: HR, K
- Neutral: RBI, SLG, OPS, 2B
- Weaknesses: R, SB, BA, OBP, BB, 3B
Players With Similar Fantasy Value
2014 Fantasy Baseball Projection
2014 Projection: 641 PA, 67 R, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 1 SB, .263 BA
Overall Rank: 169 | SS Rank: 13
…it’s clear that since becoming an Oriole, Hardy has been a safe bet for power at a position typically devoid of 20 HR threats…
Taking a closer look at his more recent results in the table above, it’s clear that since becoming an Oriole, Hardy has been a safe bet for power at a position typically devoid of 20 HR threats, and there’s not much of a reason to believe 2014 will be any different. I mean our “Similar Players” above includes two power hitting first baseman and a corner outfielder. That’s odd company for a SS. Based on Hardy’s history, our 2014 projection shouldn’t come as much surprise.
In shallower leagues, Hardy loses some luster because safer players collectively lose value, but in 14-team leagues and deeper or league with a MI position, 25+ HR from your SS/MI who can be had outside the top 125-150 is colossally useful.
2015 & Beyond
At 31 years old, Hardy isn’t yet over the hill, but he certainly is what he is. There is no potential that hasn’t already been realized. If anything, he is probably going to slowly decline from unrecognized above average to recognized mediocre…at best.
Besides the obvious, players get worse on the other side of their early 30s. I say this because despite a declining strike out rate each of the last two seasons, Hardy has been unable to capitalize on the additional contact, evidenced by some discouraging batted ball results. In short, he’s hitting more ground balls and fewer fly balls. For a player with so much value tied to his HR total, he needs every fly ball he can get.
Hardy is slowly but surely drifting away from fly balls — not good for a HR-only player.